A CEO transition can be a time of significant upheaval for a business, particularly when a departure involves challenging circumstances. With a unique view across the organisation, communication leaders play a key strategic role in onboarding a new CEO. From introducing the leader to developing a strategic partnership, there’s much to consider.

To help comms leaders like you handle this delicate process, we recently hosted a closed-door roundtable to examine effective strategies for navigating a leadership change. Here are some top tips from the discussion to guide you through communicating a CEO transition.


Get to know your CEO’s personal journey

Comms leaders who participated in our roundtable stressed the importance of getting to know your new CEO on a personal level. By understanding their backstory and personal motivators, you can effectively introduce them as a real person to the organisation rather than just someone with a lofty title.

To achieve this, you could arrange a series of in-person meetings where you can delve into their background and interests. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • What excites you most about taking on this role?
  • What are your primary motivations?
  • How do you envision the company’s future under your leadership?

Developing this personal understanding can help you establish a stronger connection between the CEO’s vision and the company’s strategic goals, making the latter more tangible for your employees.

bulb icon Tip: You could produce a long-form video to introduce your CEO, sharing their personal story and background with the entire organisation.


Tailor your comms formats to your CEO

By building a strong rapport with your CEO, you’ll gain valuable insights into their personality and preferred communication style. Each leader is different and you’ll need to identify the best ways to convey their message. A more introverted CEO might appreciate intimate group discussions, while an outgoing leader might feel comfortable recording videos or addressing the entire organisation during a global town hall. As a communication leader, you must adapt your strategies to help your CEO communicate authentically and effectively.

bulb iconTip: Strike a balance by scheduling a mix of large-scale meet-and-greet events and smaller, more intimate gatherings, as each format serves a distinct purpose in fostering engagement and building connections.


Foster CEO-employee dialogue

Fostering two-way communication between employees and the new CEO is crucial for building trust and transparency. Create opportunities for small, informal group discussions where employees from various departments can interact with the CEO in a comfortable environment. One leader remarked that this allows your employees to meet the CEO in an “unvarnished way.” Additionally, it’s important to ensure there is a feedback mechanism so employees can ask questions and share thoughts about CEO communications.

bulb iconTip: Encourage your CEO to ask and learn. As much as your employees are curious about the new CEO, your CEO should be eager to learn about the people who make the organisation what it is.


Prioritise physical presence

During the initial stages of a CEO transition, visibility is key. Encourage your new CEO to actively engage with employees across the organisation through face-to-face interactions. Remember, actions speak louder than words—employees will appreciate a leader who goes the extra mile to be present and approachable. By fostering these human connections, your CEO will lay a strong foundation for a successful and cohesive organisational culture.

bulb iconTip: The regularity of onboarding communications and events will likely be unsustainable beyond the initial transition period. You can gradually scale down what you are doing but don’t disregard what worked during the onboarding period. There’s no reason you can’t replicate these strategies beyond the initial 90 days.


Don’t be afraid to push back

Yes, they are your CEO – but that doesn’t mean they are right about everything – especially when it comes to communicating with employees. Comms leaders at the roundtable provided anecdotes of pushing back on ideas they knew wouldn’t resonate with the employees at their business. Embrace your role as a trusted advisor and don’t shy away from offering alternative perspectives when necessary. By doing so, you can cultivate a strong partnership with your CEO based on open dialogue, trust, and mutual growth. Start as you mean to go on!


Would you like to join one of our comms leader roundtables?

Connecting with peers at our live leader roundtables gives you time think about the future with a group of like-minded communication leaders in a trusting, vendor free forum. By joining us, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Pressure-test critical decisions in a trusting confidential forum.
  • Deep dive and problem solve your most pressing issues.
  • Mitigate risk by hearing lessons learned from similar businesses.
  • Find inspiration and develop new thinking from those pioneering new strategies.
  • Take away actionable ideas your team can adopt.

We’re currently finalising our roundtable schedule for the remainder of 2024. Get in touch today if you’d like to find out more about securing a space.